Four years ago, Elon Musk said his Tesla vehicles were going to have cobalt-free batteries.
In the first quarter of this year, amid the huge uproar of Musk’s desired acquisition of social platform Twitter, Tesla revealed that nearly half of its vehicles produced during that period featured cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.
Simon Alvarez, in Teslarati, writes that LFP batteries are not new but represent little of the electric vehicle market in the United States, Canada and the European Union.
In China, however, LFP batteries account for 44% of the market.
LFP batteries are a component of the electric vehicle market that is being sought after by a number of automakers as the demand for cobalt continues to rise – and therefore its price.
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, as reported in TheStreet, expects more than 30% growth in cobalt demand due to new model launches and government legislation.
The cobalt problem: Like nickel, cobalt is found in the earth’s crust and is widely used beyond electric batteries, including in airbags, varnishes and paint drying agents. Despite its usefulness, cobalt mining is fraught with pitfalls.
China, in its quest for dominance in the electric vehicle market, had one of the world’s largest cobalt and copper mines in the Republic of Congo until a lawsuit sidelined the Chinese company in a dispute. on payments to the Congolese government, according to the New York Times. .
The Republic of Congo, which provides the majority of the world’s cobalt, uses children to mine the material in dangerous conditions, with many workers killed or maimed by tunnel collapses.
This practice continues despite international pressure and watchdog groups that have called for reforms.
The state of the critical minerals supply chain: He’s just in trouble. There is not enough mining to provide the materials needed not only to foster a clean energy economy, but also to enhance national security in the United States.
Although US President Joe Biden has set a goal for 50% of new car models sold by 2030 to be electric, some automakers warn that this is an unlikely feat.
RJ Scaringe, CEO of electric vehicle maker Rivian, was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that “90% to 95% of the (battery cell) supply chain doesn’t exist.”
What they say : Observers accuse the Biden administration of being at odds with itself.
At the same time Biden is pushing for a clean energy revolution, his administration is derailing some national mining efforts, including a planned and licensed copper mine in Arizona and another in Minnesota. His administration also revoked a 25-mile right-of-way on federal land for Alaska’s Ambler mining district, prompting a stern rebuke from that state’s governor.
“In February, the Department of the Interior reopened an Environmental Impact Statement for the Ambler Access Project which had undergone seven years of rigorous federal review and requested the Ambler Road right-of-way be suspended,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. a statement distributed by Must Read Alaska.
He continued, “The Biden administration suspended that hold, saying sustenance and consultation with Alaska Natives was not considered enough, despite 18 hearings in rural communities and 29,000 written comments received at the total, and 50 pages of mitigation measures focused on preventing the disruption of livelihoods and protecting cultural resources.
The green energy policy: Biden invoked the Defense Production Act — a Cold War-era law — to support additional domestic mining to shore up supplies of critical minerals and rare earth elements. It happened this spring.
The problem is that his administration also rejects the Trump administration’s changes to the environmental review process if that mining takes place on federal lands. While the former president aimed to shorten that review process — which could take years, if not more than a decade — the Biden administration wants a return to the old, more thorough environmental reviews — which means long delays in mining projects.
Joe Lowry, a mining industry veteran also known as Mr. Lithium, observed: “You can build a battery factory in two years, but it takes up to a decade to build a lithium project,” as Bloomberg reports.
Some congressional Democrats are also attacking the nation’s mining law that has been in effect since 1872, seeking to institute reforms that include setting royalty rates for the first time on mining on federal lands and stricter environmental standards. These proposed reforms will be released at a press conference next week.